Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christian Anger

There is one thing that has really been getting on my nerves lately and it's time for a vent. Feel free to ignore me (although I get a lot of satisfaction as I write imaging that someone out there is reading this). This has been building for a few days and you know how once you ponder something, all of a sudden, it's everywhere?

I have this friend from church. She's a lovely, kind, generous woman but she posts stuff on Facebook all the time that DRIVES ME CRAZY. She is very conservative and often posts things about how a lack of discipline (i.e., spanking) has led to the decline of civilization and how the lack of prayer in schools and respect for other faiths has led to discrimination against Christians. It leaves a very bad taste in my mouth and I spent a fair bit of time over the last few days pondering why.

First of all, I have decided that other than in a few limited cases, there isn't all the discrimination against Christians that certain people like to cite. Absolutely, there are places in the world in which people definitely face what ranges from inconvenience to risk of loss of life for their Christian faith. Those people have something to complain about. I work in the (very) secular public school system in Ontario and I boldly teach Christmas and yet, I have never had a single complaint. The only complaint I have had was from a Christian parent when I taught the class about Rosh Hashanah. I really teach Christmas, too (and Easter for that matter) - I cover the Nativity and what Christians believe about Jesus and we get into the nitty-gritty about the crucifixion. I have had muslim parents give me crosses as Christmas gifts (!) because they knew and honoured my faith. I am proud of being a Christian and I am very open with my class about the fact that my faith helps me to decide how to behave and how to treat others. I have never had a principal tell me not to discuss it and every year, in our school concert, my choir performs songs that reference the nativity. Again, I have never had a complaint.

You know what I think it is? People aren't against Christmas (at least, not the faith Christmas, as opposed to the commercial Christmas, which, frankly, I could do without, too). They are against ONLY Christmas, which is a very different thing. If I teach Ramadan and Eid and Navatri and Holi and Hanukkah and Passover and Purim, they are very happy. It is my intention that every child leaves my class knowing and respecting others. Christianity is my faith and my journey. Regardless of whether I agree with someone else, I can't believe that God would want me to disrespect people for being different. I don't believe that most people of other faiths and backgrounds really want Christmas out of the schools - they want its exclusive domination of the culture addressed. I know that there are some people of extreme beliefs who do complain (my husband has dealt with more than a few of those in his teaching career) but, at least in my experience, those people are most often atheists who object to a theistic faith in all its forms. Sorry, the very vast majority of people in the world believe in a God or many Gods and we are not going to avoid addressing that fact, regardless of whether faith makes you uncomfortable.

The other thing I can't help but think is that Christians walking around complaining about being hard done by and being angry so misses the message. Sure, Jesus got angry, but He got angry about true injustice, oppression of the weak and the minority and the poor and commercialism of the holy. I can't help but think that aggressively complaining about "foreigners" and ranting about how "they" should be like us since they have come to "our"country is unBiblical. There were many good outsiders in the Bible and caring for the outsider was a message of the gospels.

So, I guess what I am saying is that if you want to rant on Facebook about muslim prayer in TDSB schools or about the lack of Christian prayer in public schools (and I don't actually know of anything that would prevent a Christian child from praying, should he or she choose - I know that I wouldn't be bothered about it in my classroom, provided that it wasn't in the middle of a lesson I was teaching), that society is taking the Christ out of Christmas (I think the retailers have a much bigger charge to face on that one), drop me from your friends list. I don't want to hear it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Yarn Along

I've really missed the Yarn Along over at Ginny's blog, Small Things. I have been so swamped with writing report cards and marking and mothering that I haven't had time to do anything other than knit a row or two here or there. It's so nice that it looks like things are easing up a bit and I can get back to so fun things. Now, if only I can find some time to read some other Yarn Along posts tomorrow. There's something about women who read and knit that make me feel like I have come home!

So, for this week:

knitting - all over the place I definitely have too many things on the go at once. I still have to finish dad's scarf, get a dent in the one that I have started for my brother and I have started a hat project. I had this crazy idea of trying to make matching hats for the family and then to have a photo taken of all of us in our hats to be our Christmas card. It's a nice idea but in reality, I don't love the yarn I have used and the first hat is a bit snug on the hugs heads that we have in our family. Finally, there's the project above - a square for a group blanket. A friend organized a knitting club at our local library and we meet every other Thursday. It's a very diverse group - ages ranging from about 70 to 30, I think, with most of us somewhere in between. At first, I didn't enjoy it that much - I'm shy and sitting around with people I don't know that well isn't always something I love. Now, though, I am really enjoying it and I look forward to my time with our group each week. As a way of thanking the library for the space and the publicity, we decided that we would do a blanket for the library and they can raffle tickets. The yarn was donated and I don't love the texture but the square looks o.k. and I think that the finished blanket should be fairly nice.

Books - again, I am all over the place. There's Matilda by Roald Dahl. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE him but I often feel a bit funny about reading his books to my class. They can be pretty dark at times and the humour can be a bit mean or scary to some kids. I thought I'd read this first and see if it would work for my class. The jury is out on that one. I am finishing Indigo Dying by Susan Wittig Albert. I really enjoy her herb mysteries - they came along long before the other theme mysteries that seem to be all over the place right now and they are very readable, whether they are "special interest" mysteries or not. I have a new Alexander McCall Smith series to start and I can't wait. I love his meandering pace and quirky characters. I hope this lives up to his other books. Finally, a friend lent me a copy of Mary Jane's Farm. I'm loving it! It lets me dream of the gardens I'd like the plant, the crafts I'd like to do and the natural lifestyle I dream of (although I am not altogether sure that I would enjoy as much in reality). It's a lovely read and I think I am going to have to get my own subscription!

I can't wait to see what everyone else is reading and knitting this week!

G is for Greek Food

G was a fun letter, too. We debated how we wanted to do it (Greek food or "Grand Buffet" - a Chinese all-you-can-eat which the kids love and our bank account doesn't). Unfortunately, Dh and I had visions of Greek food like we get down in the big city, full of flavour, hot, fresh and with good ambiance. This outing was doomed from the start. The kids both napped late and we had to wake them up to go (we wanted to beat the dinner rush) and whenever they have to be wakened up, it's ugly. Little Bean wasn't too bad but it was about two thirds of the way through the meal that Pk started to thaw a bit. She ate a few nibbles of souvlaki and drank lots of milk. Our food was cold and not terribly flavourful, but then, what can we expect from a chain? It made me want to go home and watch Shirley Valentine, though (I loved that movie - must buy it again one of these days).

Pumping gas was much more fun. Pk always wants to help and on occasion, I let her, although, given how much I hate getting her in and out of her carseat, I don't allow it all that often.
Of course, there is a host of grandparents, all of whom seemed to be unavailable, even via Skype. Fortunately, we have a good friend that Pk adores who she calls Grannie A and she was a perfect choice.
I was thrilled that we managed this. I wanted to feed geese and so on the Saturday, we decided to head out to see if there were any around. It was incredible - a Saturday in November and we didn't even really need coats. We took old muffins from the fridge that were on their way to the green bin and the birds were big fans. Sadly, geese are NOT as quick as seagulls so the gulls had a great feast.
Finally, we decided to make granola. There is so much controversy about sending food that might have nuts that I worried about this. In addition, in our province, there are new guidelines about schools needing to serve healthy foods and you never quite know what is going to be deemed inappropriate (which I find amusing, given the total crap the kids in my class always seem to bring - given all the things we aren't supposed to send these days, including nuts, seeds, coconut and eggs, I am beginning to think that the powers that be won't be happy until we are all sending "Lunchables" - no risk since there are no authentic food products in them anyway). I found this granola recipe on and it turned out really well. We left out the sesame seeds and I called the school and left a message for Pk's teacher, just to let her know that this was school safe. Little Bean loved it and if it wasn't so expensive and high in sugar with all the dried fruit, I'd definitely make it again.

I'm looking forward to H - I have a great idea, I just hope I can make it work out.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

F is for Football

I'm just going to stop apologizing for being so infrequent these days. It's been report card time and Dh and I were both responsible for organizing the Remembrance Day assemblies at our school so last week was insane. Here's hoping that now all of that is done, we can settle into something of a calmer routine.

I'm really happy that I am posting these here. This exercise has been something that I have really enjoyed and it's giving me a wonderful way to remember Pk's J.K. year. I was pretty devastated earlier in the week when she came home from school and had basically ruined the book that we are making to go with all of this. We are having some trouble getting her to close her water bottle properly and despite my putting it in a ziplock bag and insisting that it not go into the bag but into the side pocket, she still managed to put it into her bag open and all of our work was ruined. I was so upset. I've decided that what I am going to do is at the end of the year, I'll get the photos put together into a hardcover photo book that I can keep (and I might ever get her a copy). If you have any ideas for a great source for that, I'd love to hear it. I know of several sites but haven't actually done it.

F was a fun letter for us. It took me a while to decide what we were going to do and then I came up with a great idea - "Football with Friends" (which also happens to have a great fall connection). We got in touch with all of our supper group friends and set a date for football, followed by pizza at J's house. It was pretty funny. The kids were all grouchy since they have all had a hard time adjusting to school and we spent a LOT of time refereeing but we did get a few minutes of something resembling a game. They had the most fun, however, playing in some old trees with great spaces for hiding and climbing. It was a great memory.

Then, of course you can't do F without french fries. I realise that McDonalds fries aren't particularly chi-chi, but they are what she loves and so they are what we did.

We also went to a farmer's market. There's one in the nearby town that we always talk about going to and so this seemed a perfect time to do it. It was bitterly cold so we didn't stay long!
And finally, in our family, you can't do F without the forest. We run the dogs there most days on the weekend and in October, it can't be missed. We got a number of lovely photos that day but I won't bore you with all of them. Too bad Pk looks almost cross eyed in the photo.
See you soon for letter G. We had fun with that one, too!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

E is for England

E had me stumped for a while. One of my students (yes, we talk about this when I am on yard duty) came up with English muffins, which I thought was a good idea. Pk won't eat eggs so our culinary choices were rather limited. I thought that gathering eggs at the farm was a good idea but it just didn't seem like enough. It was days before I came up with a solution.

Then, out of the blue, I KNEW what we needed to do. Dh is from England and in our family, we believe that English chocolate is much better than anything available here in North America. I know, I know, it's technically more "candy" than chocolate but for "milk chocolate", the Brits just do it better. Once in a while, we go and get some crisps (there's nothing like pickled onion flavour), chocolate and dh gets jelly tots.

The shop itself is wonderful. It's off on a little side street and run by a tiny and seemingly ancient woman. It's generally frequented by ex-pats who seem to love children, especially very British-looking little kids who already recognize the team logos for many of the English premiership football teams. The shop owner loves little ones and Pk and LB always get spoiled, often with tubes of English smarties. It was a great idea for E as we have always called it "The England Store."

Of course, if we are talking England, dh's soccer gear was a necessity.
Finally, although it wasn't terribly inspired, we went up to the farm for Pk to gather eggs from her chickens. Of course, everyone needs to do that wearing a crown and a pink dress!
Stay tuned for letter F. I had "f"un with that one. Ha!

D is for Duck

As I have said before, we have been having so much fun with our "letter of the week" activities with Pk's school. I actually find, now, that on the fourth week, when they review the three letters that they have done so far, I actually miss it. I know, I'm crazy. I love this stuff (why do you think that I am a primary teacher?)

D was an easy one for us, although for snacks, it was a bit harder. (And snacks is another post...) I tried making date muffins and twice, they were crumbly and I couldn't get them out of the pan. I tried giving the kids dates to eat (the dried ones) and that was not a hit, either.

In our house, there were a couple of things that were absolute necessities for D. The first, of course, was dogs. Needless to say, trying to get two dogs and a child to pose for a photo posed certain challenges. I don't think the result was too bad, although I think it would have been better if they had been closer together.

Our next d was a great one. For Thanksgiving Monday (we are in Canada and celebrate Thanksgiving much earlier - I think Americans have it right on this one, November is so bleak and boring here), we went with several families to the local farm for the activities. It was a gorgeous, hot day and best of all, my teacher friend whose sister married into the farm family, was making fresh doughnuts all day. I have to say, these doughnuts, crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside and coated with sugar, were an entirely new doughnut experience for all of us. I will never have one at a corner doughnut shop again!

The next idea was one that I have bee pondering for a while. We live outside the city and not far from the beach but I have found it hard to predictably find ducks around here. They hang out in the puddles outside my classroom after a big rain but none of the local ponds seem to have them. We had to go back to the city to be certain that we could feed them. We went down to the big city to visit my parents and while there, we fed ducks at the beach. We almost didn't make it because of a fight about clothing (Pk had a dress on and I had put on bicycle shorts underneath as I always do and she decided that she was hot and didn't want to wear the dress, just the shorts and shirt - I am not into having my child parade around in too-small shorts, thank you). We resolved our issues with some help from Uncle J and had a great time feeding the ducks and scaring Gran that Pk was going to fall through into the lake.
And, of course, we saved the best for last, D is for DADDY! He is such a wonderful guy who makes life so much fun for all of us. How could we miss him???

We'll be back with E and F shortly!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween 2011

So, to begin, I am still alive. Yes, I realise that this is probably something of a surprise to you. I am teaching a split grade this year which means that I have to teach Grades 2 and 3 at the same time. As you can imagine, this presents some challenges and given that I haven't taught Grade 3 before, it's a lot of work. I am enjoying it but I feel like my head is spinning a lot of the time.

I have really missed blogging. I want to try to get back here more often. November is such a yucky, depressing month, I want to try to do it differently here and use your ideas. That's another post, though.

So, as you know, if you have been around here a while, you know that I have some mixed feelings about Halloween. I grew up celebrating Halloween and always really enjoyed it as a family holiday. We never went with anything especially especially ghastly but we did have fun with it. I never saw anything wrong with it.

In the last few years, I have come in contact with a bunch of Christians who are VERY anti-Halloween. At first, I totally dismissed them as being over the top (a bit like the ones who are afraid of Muppets out of the fear that they are demons - seriously, I did know some like that). Gradually, though, as I gave it a bit more thought and I did some research, I did come to realise that there are some issues around Halloween that I hadn't really pondered before. While there is nothing in the Bible against dressing up and getting candy, the Bible is very clear that we are not to have anything to do with the occult.

Dh and I talked a lot about it and we decided that we think that it is o.k. to do Halloween but that we will do it our way. We have friends who are Christians who have largely withdrawn from the world and really, they seem like their kids aren't having much fun. I am not in any way saying that we should let our kids do everything their friends are doing but at the same time, I think that constantly saying no to our kids out of fear will make Christianity seem pretty bleak and oppressive. We had a discussion with our minister and his wife (who is also our minister) and he said that she had said something about we, as Christians, needing to be light in the world - isn't Halloween a great time to do that, when we can give generously, forge relationships with neighbours and show a different way of doing things? We do not do witches, demons, satan, etc. but I don't see anything wrong with pumpkins, princesses and animals. When the kids get older, it may be tougher to keep it clean but for now, anyway, we can really enjoy ourselves without feeling like we are compromising what we believe.

The build up was fun and Halloween itself was great. We made treats for a dinner with friends, treats for Pk and LB's daycare friends, gave out candy, carved pumpkins (based on "The Pumpkin Patch Parable" by Liz Curtis Hicks) and went trick-or-treating with good friends. It was so much fun!

We made these treats based on a great recipe I stumbled across via Pinterest.
We worked together to carve pumpkins. LB wanted to get in on the fun, which really frustrated Pk.
Once we got him his own pumpkin, everyone was much happier.

The look in the photo above was the result of taking his first taste of raw pumpkin. Yuck!

We made these cute jars from another Pinterest find. I wanted something to give to Pk's teacher, the sitter and our trick-or-treating friends. It was fun, easy and Pk did most of the work!

The actual trick-or-treating outing was so much fun. I have to say, I find it quite moving. There were families everywhere and most houses had people either already out on the porch or quick to answer the door. Everyone was so kind to the kids and people were so generous. When else do we all get outside and talk to people we don't know, give things away and trust our neighbours with our children? What a nice community event. I have been thinking that it's really sad that we don't do more this way with other holidays.

I hope you had a wonderful Halloween, too!